WWL-TV’s Frank Davis, host of ‘Naturally N’Awlins,’ dead at 71

Frank Davis Show caption
Frank Davis

‘Naturally N’Awlins,’ outdoors, cooking reports treasured for nearly 40 years

“There was no more imaginative and creative storyteller than Frank Davis. It was a joy to see him work. There simply wasn’t an assignment that Frank couldn’t turn into a tiny masterpiece. He loved people and he loved life, and, more than anyone, he captured the soul of this region and the joy of being a New Orleanian.” Joe Duke, former WWL-TV news director

Frank Davis, the New Orleans broadcaster and writer whose cooking, fishing and “Naturally N’Awlins” feature reports for WWL-TV made him a local favorite for more than three decades, died Monday at his home near Houston.

He was 71.

In an interview with the station in May, Davis and his wife, Mary Clare, revealed he had a rare autoimmune disease that robbed him of the use of his arms and legs. The disease, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, caused his immune system to see his nerves and the insulation around them as foreign invaders, attacking and destroying them.

Davis and his wife moved to Texas to be closer to family after he retired from WWL-TV in 2011 and later was diagnosed. Despite the life-altering symptoms that struck him in just a matter of months, he remained upbeat and positive, with his optimism encouraging his own doctors and physical therapists.

“Thank God in heaven that I’ve got that happy personality, that I can see something bad and smile about it,” he told WWL-TV medical reporter Meg Farris. “Believe me, I don’t want to smile about it because it bothers me. It’s a roller-coaster ride. I’m good one day. I’m bad one day.”

It was saddening and shocking to many viewers to see someone known for being full of life now fighting for survival.

During Davis’ 30-year career, he always said he had the best job in local television, and his fans no doubt agreed. His weekly appearances in the kitchen on the “Eyewitness Morning News” program, his “Fishin’ Game Report” and “Naturally N’Awlins” features brought him into hundreds of thousands of viewers’ homes, where he was welcomed like family.

To the casual observer, it looked like anything but work, but colleagues knew the gift he had for capturing the essence of a story, while putting his story subjects at ease and making the job look like second nature.

“I learned a long time ago, if you want to be a success in life, first you have to find something you like to do, then you have to do it better than anybody else, and third, find someone to pay you to do it,” he said in an interview. “I was fortunate to be able to do that at WWL.”

A New Orleans native, Davis’ broadcasting career began in 1974, when he began making occasional appearances on WWL-AM for fishing and outdoors segments. That grew into a job as a weekend show host.

“It was a great opportunity to do what I do best, and that’s talk to people,” Davis said.

In 1980, he stepped into a full-time radio role, and in 1981, he made the switch to television.

His TV appearances began with weekly fishing reports and grew to include feature segments that the station billed as “Naturally N’Awlins.” Thirty years later, the term is a local catchphrase, and three decades’ worth of stories on the colorful people and personalities of this area — enhanced by one of the most colorful of them all, Davis himself — became viewer favorites.

“There was no more imaginative and creative storyteller than Frank Davis. It was a joy to see him work,” said former WWL-TV news director Joe Duke. “There simply wasn’t an assignment that Frank couldn’t turn into a tiny masterpiece. He loved people and he loved life, and, more than anyone, he captured the soul of this region and the joy of being a New Orleanian.”

In the stories, Davis played up the “N’Awlins” aspect so much — reveling in the local characters and dialect — that many viewers would have been surprised to learn he majored in English at the University of New Orleans.

Once he established himself as a television personality, Davis soon began making weekly cooking appearances on the “Eyewitness Morning News,” which over the years became must-see TV for thousands of viewers. Davis, who was a distinguished member of the American Culinary Federation, created and demonstrated hundreds of recipes, which formed the basis for five cookbooks issued by Pelican Publishing Co. He also marketed a popular line of seasonings and spices.

Over the years, Davis also published books on fishing, pursuing one of his other great interests — the outdoors. His weekly fishing reports were a regular segment on Channel 4’s Eyewitness News for close to three decades.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Amanda, Davis is survived by his mother and four grandchildren.

A Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at St. John of the Cross Catholic Church, 61051 Brier Lake Drive, Lacombe. Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13, at Honaker Funeral Home, 1751 Gause Blvd. West, Slidell, and from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at the church.